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Simone Joseph(2)

Simone Joseph(2)

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Published by: leigh on Jun 12, 2014
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I approached the study with Bogdan and Bilken’s (2007) five characteristics of

qualitative research: the research should be natural, it should utilize descriptive data, it should be


concerned with the process, it should employ an inductive approach, and it should be

meaningful. The research tradition I utilized is a qualitative multi-case study or “collective case

study” (Creswell, 2007) because it provides multiple sources of information. This will allow me

to follow Lincoln and Guba’s (2000) case study structure: the problem, the context, the issues,

and the lessons learned.

I considered a quantitative or mixed-methods study to examine the data related to deficit

thinking, but I recognized that the issue of deficit thinking cannot be found in numbers. Deficit

thinking exists in the actions and beliefs of the educators and administrators that interact with

students on a regular basis. Gillborn (2010) found that quantitative approaches often encode

particular assumptions about the nature of social processes and the generation of educational

inequality that reflect a generally superficial understanding of racism. To understand deficit

thinking, it is important to understand the people and processes that perpetuate deficit thinking


Furthermore, statistical methods themselves encode particular assumptions which, in

societies that are structured in racial domination, often carry biases that are likely to further

discriminate against particular marginalized groups (Gillborn, 2010). He further purported that

quantitative research risks falling into the trap of blaming the victim.

By focusing on how much inequality is associated with particular student identities
(including class, gender, race, family structure and maternal education), such research
can give the impression that the problem arises from those very identities—rather than
being related to social processes that give very different value to such identities, often
using them as a marker of internal deficit and/or threat. (p. 272)

Therefore, in this study I used a qualitative approach to understand the beliefs and actions of

principals who work to eliminate deficit thinking practices.


Ladson-Billings (2007) found that qualitative inquiry afforded researchers the

opportunity to construct narratives, or chronicles, out of historical, socio-cultural and political

contexts. The purpose of the chronicle is to give readers a context for understanding the way

inequality manifests in policy, practice, and people’s experiences. Such an approach was

successfully conducted by Garza and Garza (2010) in their multi-case examination of how

teachers’ perceptions, experiences, and beliefs impacted the success or failure of low-SES

Mexican American children and greatly informed Valencia’s (1997b) work in The Evolution of

Deficit Thinking.

Miles and Huberman (1984) found that a structured approach helped to ensure the

comparability of data across sources and researchers and are thus particularly useful in

answering variance questions and questions that deal with differences between things and their

explanation” (p. 64). The literature suggested that the problem of deficit thinking is best

understood not as a contemporary practice, but as a thought process that continues to morph in

the education realm since the inception of the American schooling system (Valencia, 1997b).

Pearl (1997) posited that democratic education is a process that replaces deficit thought practices

and leads to more equity and equality in the education system. To help understand the workings

of deficit thinking, a case study approach allowed me to explore the process in depth (Creswell,


My research sought to address the problem of deficit thinking. It is premised on

Valencia’s The Evolution of Deficit Thinking to build an understanding of deficit thinking in the

context of contemporary education. I then examined the strategies each principal employed to

eliminate deficit thinking in relation to the marginalization of students. Shields et al. (2004)

framework for eliminating deficit thinking was employed to explore the issues principals face in


challenging deficit thinking practices. The results of the study are provided to bring insight into

the experiences of principals who challenge deficit thinking practices in secondary school


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